Halloween Hacks

Because individuals and families vary greatly, nothing works for everybody, but it is definitely worth trying some ideas to ameliorate the holiday stress. It would be hard to blame a parent for wishing that Halloween simply didn’t exist. Actually in some circumstances, like with an only child, it might be possible to get away with that. Older siblings will definitely blow the whistle, spill the beans, and let the cat out of the bag. But with any luck, grownups can prevent a singleton from finding out about trick-or-treat at a precocious age, and win a grace period of a year or two. Can a parent be forgiven for keeping a child ignorant? In this particular case, yes.

Do not buy early. Or late.

How often do grownups stock up early on trick-or-treat candy, then eat it all, and have to replace it as the scary day approaches? We’ll never tell — but don’t be one of them. And don’t go grocery shopping too soon after the fall sugarfest, either, so you don’t even have to see the bins of leftover orange sugar bombs at tempting bargain prices. The only possible reason for shopping right after Halloween is if your child has agreed to forfeit their trick-or-treat stash for a favorite healthful, or at least less destructive, food.

Go public

COVID-19 has put a dent in traditional spooky celebrations, but not much of a dent as some of us would like. Innovative teachers, parents, and youth leaders have figured out alternative activities that still manage to spread around plenty of high-fructose corn syrup-based items. If parents belong to an organization that hosts some kind of Halloween event, they can bring the matter up in the planning stages and try to influence the group. Find out what the plan is, at preschool, daycare, public school, Sunday school, or wherever else your child spends time offsite — and if it involves sweet treats, try to influence that plan. Be sure to warn relatives and child-care people that you are aiming for a candyless holiday.

Influence trick-or-treat methodology

Conspire with other parents in your neighborhood, building, or social circle to create a sugar-free party on the appropriate night, or to switch over to non-food treats. In certain situations, parents can be forgiven for resorting to bribery. For example: Is there a scary movie they want to see, but that hasn’t turned up on your streaming service? Make a special effort to get hold of it, on condition that trick-or-treat time will be shortened (or maybe even eliminated.)

Reconfigure Halloween

To shorten or eliminate trick-or-treat time, plan an extensive photo session — especially if you and your kids have made your own brilliant, innovative costumes or masks. If you decorated your yard, porch, hallway, or living room, don’t forget to document those accomplishments.

Tell ghost stories. With preparation beforehand, you can use this time to play an elaborate, spooky game like the one immortalized by the writer Ray Bradbury in “The October Game.” Or read that story aloud, or turn off the lights and listen to it, which takes less than 20 minutes, but it’s a bit rough for younger kids (unless they just don’t get it). Of course, any halfway ambitious child will start planning now, to get a group together and actually play the game, next year.

Take a big swing

Try something wildly different, like starting a new tradition. Invest an hour of family time into watching “How the Chocolate Industry Still Profits From Child Labor.” In the countries where cacao is grown, the line between child labor and child slavery is quite tenuous. Many American young people are socially conscious to a surprising degree, and some possess the temperament or the mental sophistication to grapple with a lot of nuance. They might decide to skip the candy, or collect it and sell it to other kids, in order to donate money to some organization that works to end the exploitation of children.

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Image by Bennilover/CC BY-ND 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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